5 Steps to Make Programmatic Branding Work for You

Programmatic Buying

When Pam Horan, President of the Online Publishers Association (OPA), wrote in December 2012 that “programmatic buying does not build brands”, few would have disagreed. Today, times have changed as big data, programmatic buying and real-time bidding have collectively paved the way for a new generation of brand opportunities online. Recognising the growing shift in buying trends from single-site buys to RTB, many of the traditionally “exclusive” publishers are putting their inventory up for auction, allowing all parties to benefit. The resultant platform is sophisticated, universal and creates opportunities for all involved: buyers can now easily purchase across premium sites without juggling multiple publisher orders, while the advertiser benefits from myriad targeting and optimisation.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

Cross-Device Ad Startup Drawbridge Adds Mobile App-To-Web Retargeting (And Vice Versa)

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Drawbridge, an ad targeting startup backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital, is expanding its offerings today with a new feature allowing mobile advertisers to reach consumers with retargeted ads, regardless of whether they’re using an app or on the mobile web.

Founder and CEO Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan said that while ad retargeting (i.e., ads targeted based on your past visits and activity) is possible within apps, things get trickier when you try to cross the boundary between apps and websites: “It’s literally two devices on the same device, separated by an iron wire.” (I question her question use of “literally”, but I think you get the point.) App developers can also try to reengage their users through alerts and notifications, but users can always turn those off.

In order to solve that problem, Drawbridge is “piggybacking” on its core technology. That technology examines user activity to help advertisers identify when multiple devices are likely being used by the same person. That allows advertisers to use data collected on the desktop to target ads on mobile. The company’s two products launched last fall include PC-to-mobile retargeting and mobile app marketing. The mobile-to-mobile retargeting is intended to fill out the mobile marketing product, Sivaramakrishnan said.

Drawbridge has already run test campaigns with e-commerce companies, who were either trying to bring old customers back to the site or to convince current customers to buy more. Sivaramakrishnan said that in a campaign targeting lapsed users, the client reached 100 percent return on ad spend within three weeks. Another campaign targeted active users and reached 100 percent ROAS within a single day.

Advertisers will have a chance to test this out for themselves, Sivaramakrishnan said, because the new capabilities include an A/B testing framework. So advertisers can run part of their campaign with Drawbridge’s retargeting and part of their campaign without it and see which ads perform better.

Earlier this year, Drawbridge announced that it was partnering with TRUSTe to allow mobile consumers to opt out of its targeting. Since then, Sivaramakrishnan said that some users have indeed opt out, but that the rates haven’t been “heavy”.

Publicis And Omnicom Are Merging To Form A $35.1B Advertising Leviathan

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Today Publicis and Omnicom, two of the “big five” global advertising and marketing agencies, announced a “merger of equals”, in which the two will combine to create the world’s biggest agency, with some $22.7 billion in annual revenues and a market capitalization of $35.1 billion. The pair say that the new Publicis Omnicom Group initially will be jointly run by the two existing CEOs, John Wren from Omnicom and Maurice Levy from Publicis, and headquartered both in New York and Paris, with a holding company HQ in the Netherlands.

The companies will trade publicly as ONC (currently Omnicom’s symbol) on both the NYSE and Euronext.

The confirmation – after reports of the deal swirled earlier this week – was delivered today in a press conference on a hot Sunday summer afternoon in Paris – a slightly oxymoronic setting for a megadeal.

“For many years, we have had great respect for one another as well as for the companies we each lead. This respect has grown in the past few months as we have worked to make this combination a reality. We look forward to co-leading the combined company and are excited about what our people can achieve together for our clients and our shareholders,” the co-CEOs said together.

If Google is the world’s biggest digital advertising network, the merger of these two will create an advertising megacorp that will be the world’s biggest provider of advertising to feed that machine. It will be twice the size of its nearest rival, WPP. While there are two other agencies in addition to these, Interpublic and Havas, they are significantly smaller. This will lead, inevitably, to antitrust scrutinty from regulators. Today, the companies, both already global operators, noted that they will need regulatory approval in 41-46 countries.

“We are not expecting anything that would prevent us from going forward,” Wren said at the press conference (according to Reuters). “We are confident that we will get regulatory approvals,” Levy also noted.

It may also spur more merger activities among other players.

Without a doubt, the history of the ad industry has been one of ongoing consolidation, and in that regard this seems like a logical and inevitable step. Some of the agencies that were once rivals and will now coexist under one owner will include BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi, DDB, Leo Burnett, Razorfish, Publicis Worldwide, Fleishman-Hillard, DigitasLBi, Ketchum, StarcomMediaVest, OMD, BBH, Interbrand and ZenithOptimedia, with clients covering some of the world’s biggest buyers of advertising, including mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T, drinks companies like Coca-Cola, financial services companies like Visa, and many more. The companies say they will have “efficiences” of $500 million as a result of the deal; whether that will lead to layoffs or closures has yet to be announced.

But while this plays to type in some regards, the world of advertising and marketing is also up against growth of other disruptive forces, for example the change in consumer habits brought about by the internet. That has taken the rug out from some of the more traditional formats for advertising, such as print media, and pushed more spend towards digital formats like the internet and mobile advertising.

These are still relatively smaller players in the wider advertising ecosystem: worldwide there will be about $519 billion spent in marketing and advertising this year across all mediums. But if you break out a newer area like mobile advertising, it’s expected to be just under $9 billion this year globally, according to the IAB.

Still, the smart money sees the writing on the wall. TV advertising dominates today, Nielsen noted earlier this week, but it has grown by just 3.5% so far this year while Internet has gone up by 26.3%. The IAB estimated that mobile will go up by 83% this year.

Publicis and Omnicom’s rival WPP projects that by 2018, 40% of ad spend that it oversees will come from digital. That is driving a number of acquisitions and investments, but it is also fuelling the rise of a new kind of advertising company focused around advertising technology (ad tech) to better measure, leverage and distribute ads in these new mediums. The rise of digital media is also dovetailing with the growth of advertising and digital opportunities in emerging markets like China, South America, India and so on.

All of this plays strongly into the technology and startup ecosystem, both in terms of the companies that are growing up around these innovations, but also because such a large part of the tech world is built around the consumer internet, and much of the consumer internet is built on free, ad-based models. Consolidation of players like Omnicom and Publicis speaks to a growing desire to better scale and consolidate on the kinds of returns at can be made from newer platforms like the internet.

Facebook Adds More Verbs To Open Graph Actions, You Can Now ‘Do’ More Stuff Through Partner Apps

Facebook announced a number of new common actions today for Facebook activity, joining the “watch video” and other existing ones available to developers. These include actions in the Fitness, Books and Movies & TV categories that help users better express their interaction with media and their world. Of course, they also help developers mining the Open Graph for data get a more accurate picture of user intent and habits.

The new common actions include “run, walk and bike” for the fitness category, “read, rate, quote, and want to read” for books, and “rate, plus want to watch” for movies and TV. In the fitness category, the new actions help differentiate between specific types of actions for lifestyle apps. Facebook uses Nike to demonstrate the “run” action in, well, action, showing a user’s distance traveled, as well as time of run and NikeFuel accumulated in a sample Facebook post. Users familiar with Path’s Nike+ integration may find this type of post familiar.

As for the new common actions for books, movies and TV, they help identify not only what a user has actively been consuming, but also what they intend to buy, and to what degree they enjoyed something with a quantifiable score. The value of gathering intent data, as well as qualitative information on exactly what kind of media people like for marketers and others who use Open Graph information to customize their consumer interaction should be apparent. It’s also a play for higher engagement, as Facebook outlines in its blog post:

For example, the new fitness stories dynamically update when someone finishes their workout, and early data shows that average likes per story have increased by more than 2x. As we move more apps to use a common set of actions, we’ll be able to further optimize the performance of these stories and the user experience.

Previously, developers could’ve created these actions on their own via Facebook’s Custom Actions tool, but now they’re normalized and offered up to all developers on Facebook’s platform, which makes the information gathered via them more generally useful. Facebook announced that a number of top-tier brands are already employing the new common actions, including Jawbone UP, Runkeeper, Endomondo, Kobo, GoodReads, Rotten Tomatoes and Hulu, and also let developers know that it will be forcing a transition from similar custom actions to the new common versions by July 10, 2013.

For end users, the surface effect of this change might not be instantly apparent, but it will definitely have an impact for Facebook’s developer and advertiser partners.

Exclusive: In Yet Another Internal Hire, Yahoo’s Mayer Makes Mann Search Head

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Longtime Yahoo techie Laurence “Laurie” Mann, who has recently been SVP of engineering operations at the Silicon Valley Internet giant, has been given the new job of heading its search efforts, according to sources inside the company.

The appointment by CEO Marissa Mayer, also announced in an internal memo last week, puts Mann in a key position at Yahoo, given the need to fix its troubled search partnership with Microsoft, which was struck in 2010.

That is likely to come under great pressure in the days ahead, given that its performance has not been as expected, although that did improve in Yahoo’s most recent quarter.

Still, despite the improvement, Mayer called attention to the overall problem at a recent appearance at an investment conference.

“One of the points of the alliance is that we collectively want to grow share rather than just trading share with each other,” she said. “We need to see monetization working better, because we know that it can, and we’ve seen other competitors in the space illustrate how well it can work.”

By competitors, Mayer meant Google, whose share of the search market is close to 67 percent. Microsoft has just above 16 percent now, and Yahoo above 12 percent, a near flipping of share from two years ago.

Mann, who came to Yahoo in 2002, had been one of the execs at Yahoo who worked on the original deal under former CEO Carol Bartz, vetting the terms of the agreement for the company. While he has a degree from Canada’s University of Regina in business administration and computer science operations research, he is better known at the company for his deal-making and negotiating skills than as a techie or product exec.

That will be important, given that the end of the performance guarantee that Microsoft has had to pay to Yahoo since the partnership began comes in April.

Sources at Microsoft said the company is unlikely to extend the agreement without major concessions, and that any efforts to end the overall deal will be difficult for Yahoo.

“There is what [Yahoo] wants, and what’s possible,” said one person close to the situation.

In his new job, Mann will be in charge of improving the situation, which he has had some experience with. Mann, said one source, “used to spends hours at night on the phone with Microsoft trying to get concessions from their lack of RPS achievement,” referring to revenue per search.

Whether that means he can fix the situation — either by extricating Yahoo from the deal or improving Yahoo’s search experience to boost revenue and market share — is unclear. Mayer herself has a lot of search product chops from her time at Google, so she is expected to play a dominant role in the arena.

Another important effort for her, obviously, is still recruitment, given that a number of her choices for top product and tech jobs at Yahoo have been longtime veterans who were in place when the company was experiencing its continuing downward slide.

Among her options is buying a small search company, trying to end the Microsoft deal and perhaps strike another one with Google, or even reenter the search business with innovative engineers.

That is a big job. When Mayer was hired last summer, it was thought that she would bring in talent to reinvigorate Yahoo’s top echelons from outside the company.

But, for the most part, that has not happened, and she has appointed a lot of Yahoo’s longtime veterans to important roles in the turnaround.

For example, Mayer brought back Jay Rossiter to run platforms, appointed Scott Burke to head advertising tech, and now has put Mann into a top job in search — all of whom report directly to her on her executive staff.

Taboola Raises $15 Million So It Can Suggest More Stories You Might Click On

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Content recommendation service Taboola tells Web surfers where to go, 1.5 billion times a day. And it thinks that activity could turn into a really big business one day.

Hence the company’s new $15 million round, led by Pitango Venture Capital; earlier investors Evergreen Venture Partners, WGI Group and Marker are back as well.

That gives New York-based and Israeli-run Taboola a total of $40 million raised to date — which isn’t as much as its primary competitor, Outbrain. That New York-based and Israeli-run content-recommendation service (which works with All Things Digital) has raised $64 million so far.

Capitalization aside, both Taboola and Outbrain do essentially the same thing: They direct traffic from one website to another by suggesting stories and videos to surfers, based on what they’re reading, what they’ve read, etc. They get paid by the website they refer traffic to, on a cost-per-click basis, and share some of that revenue with the publisher that provided the eyeball.

Here’s what both of them look like in action, at the bottom of the same Time.com page (Time Warner’s websites need as many money-generating clicks as they can get. Then again, all of us do.). Taboola generates the four thumbnail photos and links at the top of this screenshot; Outbrain gets paid if you click on any of the “From Around the Web” links on the bottom-right:

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There is a great deal of chatter in “native ads” right now — ads that don’t really seem like ads, because they’re “content” — and both Taboola and Outbrain fit nicely in that conversation. Because the recommendations they get money for look pretty much exactly like “real” recommendations the publisher makes itself, for its own content.

On the other hand, you don’t really need a new set of terms to describe what Taboola and Outbrain do. Charging someone a fee to bring an eyeball to their page is something Google mastered a long time ago.

Tennis Champ Agassi Gives Yahoo Sales Troops a Pep Talk

Yahoo COO Henrique De Castro has been holding a global sales conference in Las Vegas this week, bringing together the large group of employees at the Silicon Valley Internet giant who are in charge of a big chunk of its revenue. While it’s a lot of talking by top execs about the dramatic new advertising structure that he has put into place, there is always the requisite inspirational speaker (in 2007, at another meeting, it was Apple’s Steve Jobs). For this event, sources said, it was former tennis champ Andre Agassi appearing there to get the troops juiced. The once-pugnacious athlete — who is now married to another tennis phenom, Steffi Graf — was probably a good choice, especially since one of his well-known quotes is: “Being number two sucks.”